Here’s Bruce Bochy after Cincinnati’s Phillip Ervin hit a walk-off home run to give the Reds a 2-1 win over the Giants last night (warning: Curt Young spews a stream of water):
What’s a manager to do when his team refuses to score runs? The Giants have played 20 games this season in bandboxes (Chase Field, Coors Field, Wrigley Field, and the Great American Ball Park) and scored 70 total runs (3.5 per game).
We’re at the point where the fate of the season rests in the hands of the players. The very best players in the Giants lineup have disappeared. Since the All-Star Break:
Brandon Crawford: (24 G) 18-for-91, 6 extra base hits, 7 BB : 20 K, 3 GIDP (.548 OPS)
Brandon Belt: (7 G) 5-for-28, 2 extra base hits, 1 BB : 7 K (.528 OPS)
Buster Posey: (21 G) 24-for-84, 3 extra base hits, 6 BB : 11 K, 4 GIDP (.655 OPS)
Evan Longoria: (20 G) 20-for-81, 6 extra base hits, 6 BB, 11 K, 2 GIDP (.686 OPS)
Their respective OPSeseseses for the season? .766, .835, .748, .705. These “core 4” are why the Giants are going to keep pushing their chips into the middle of the table through 2020.
For comparison’s sake, the Diamondbacks have three full-time players with OPSeseseses over .800 (Goldschmidt’s is over .900). The last time the Giants had three full-time players with OPSesese over .800 was in 2015, when they had four such players. The last time they had a player with a .900+ OPS was 2012 (Melky Cabrera: 906, Buster Posey: .957). So, it is possible for Giants’ offense to contain elite hitters despite playing in AT&T Park 81 games a year. Next year, all four of the above players will all be a year older and unlikely to top previous career highs.
So since they’re not going anywhere and the Giants need to figure out a way to generate offense, I can only hope that Bruce Bochy decides to shake things up with the lineup. There are no better rookies to give over roster spots to (Slater might be a fine option even against righties, but Hanson’s strategy-altering speed might be the tiebreaker in left field) so the only way to wake up the bunch is to ruffle their feathers with lineup spots.
Players like consistency and the comfort of knowing where they’ll hit every day. Certainly, they take pride in their performance and want to be given the opportunity to swing their way out of a “slump”, so why not split the difference with a drop in the batting order-level wakeup call?
Here, I’ve layered in enough pitch count-working players with high strikeout guys, and since the Giants don’t hit home runs or score many runs to speak of, Bumgarner in the cleanup spot is an honorific. He could bunt over Belt, Hanson, or McCutchen, or strike out to end the inning leaving Panik to lead off the next. Posey will have excellent opportunities to ground into double plays with Panik and Bumgarner ahead of him on base, but assume one time it’s Hanson and McCutchen and now you’ve got something cooking.
But if it all works out somehow, with Panik, Posey, and Crawford getting on base at the same time, then there’s Longoria to drive them in or score one on a double play ground out. And then there’s Steven Duggar to lead things off all over again. Belt could make Matt Harvey work enough so that when he gets to Hanson, that first pitch isn’t quite as sharp and Hanson, who will jump on the first pitch no matter where it’s thrown, will have a better shot at doing some damage with it.
The point of shaking up the lineup, of course, isn’t to win the game or even score more runs, but just to shake things up to make it interesting. Most baseball fans just want to be entertained for three hours. Most baseball fans aren’t giving three hours of their lives over to a game just to see the final outcome. That’s a fool’s goal. The viewer has no control over the outcome. Just watch and enjoy what you can. I would like to enjoy a huge lineup shakeup. Just once. The Giants scored 1 run against a bad team after a full day of rest. They need one.
So it is written, so it be done.